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The Icarus Project: Postmortem

Role: National Organizer (first person in this role)

Duration: December 2014 - May 2015

Categories: Nonprofit, Mental Health

High-Level Responsibilities:

  • Organizational Strategy (development and implementation)
  • Project Management (locally and nationally)
  • Training & Mentorship (locally and nationally)
  • Fundraising

SUMMARY

I was hired by The Icarus Project collective members in December of 2014 to support the support network by advising on and participating in the next wave of The Icarus Project’s developing national organizing strategy and organizational development. There was a lot of work to be done and the collective members recognized that they needed help articulating a vision with actionable steps.

The Icarus Project describes itself as  "a support network and media project by and for people who experience the world in ways that are often diagnosed as mental illness. We advance social justice by fostering mutual aid practices that reconnect healing and collective liberation. We transform ourselves through transforming the world around us."

Between December 2014 - May 2015, I accomplished the following:

  • Developed and shared a "Decolonize The Icarus Project" strategy brief that was to inform national organizing strategy and organizational development. Advocated for and wrote a public announcement about these efforts.
  • Led outreach to identify and engage with the (then) 15 TIP local chapters and affinity groups, updated the local contacts page on the TIP website and circulated contact information with partner groups and in online communities.
  • Coordinated with TIP local chapter organizers on a weekly basis to meet needs ranging from training, mentorship, peer group meeting planning and more.  Fielded questions and requests via email daily and advocated on behalf of TIP member needs and concerns in Icarus National leadership meetings. 
  • Advocated for and produced a multi-city TIP Local Chapter Organizer Training tour. Led trainings on The Icarus Project resources such as Mad Maps, answered & compiled TIP organizer questions and requests and generated written reporting and audio recordings (with consent from all parties) that was shared with Icarus National. Created and shared workshop evaluation forms and received high marks from local chapter participants.
  • Helped to edit the first in a series of Mad Maps publications and coordinated the acquisition of original drawings and other art from local chapter members to be included in the publication.
  • Functioned as lead admin in The Icarus Project (private) Facebook group that had thousands of active members. Wrote the first community guidelines and accountability processes for the group that centered Black & POC members.
  • Managed The Icarus Project social media channels and kept the community updated with timely reports on Icarus National activity, TIP events, related news and more. Consistently shared content and resources that demonstrated TIP's commitment to (then) centering Black folks and POC.
  • Coordinated and documented (with consent) the first Black and POC-centered The Icarus Project organizer meeting in New Orleans. Until this intervention and advocacy, the local chapter was by and for white members in a city that is predominantly Black.

OUTCOMES

  • Received positive feedback across the board during the performance review period in February of 2015 and was extended the offer to officially join The Icarus Project as a collective member.
  • Started, documented and shared important conversations with all local chapter organizers. This information was used by Icarus National to fundraise, including using me as the "face" of the organization for a video-submission grant opportunity in April of 2015.

Here is a testimonial from Amanda Gelender, Social Impact Project Manager at GitHub and former The Icarus Project chapter organizer:

 

I was part of the Icarus community for several years before Daniela joined us as the National Organizer. I can confidently say that Daniela’s contributions to Icarus resulted in the most important strides the organization has taken in my duration with the group.

I am a community organizer and project manager who has worked with many talented community leaders over the years - Daniela is among the best I have worked with. At a time when many members were frustrated, burnt out, and experiencing racial microaggressions as part of their experience with the Icarus Project, Daniela brought her incredible energy, wisdom, passion, expertise, and organizing skills to bear with Icarus.

Many of us were unsure if Icarus could survive - or if we wanted to stay - without fresh leadership and a serious commitment to decolonization: Daniela stepped up to go above and beyond what any national organizer had provided local chapters in support. She developed Icarus’ decolonization strategy from scratch and began implementing it across chapters, balancing where each group was at in varying stages of their process. She centered accountability and underscored that each group could improve, regardless of where they were at. No one was more ideally suited for this role than Daniela.

She acted as the lead community manager in the Facebook group where she cultivated relationships with members to meet online and offline goals. I was continually impressed with Daniela’s ability to facilitate charged online conversations about privilege, race, and mental health status with compassion, consistency, and directness. During Daniela’s tenure managing the Icarus Project’s social media profiles, she more than doubled our engagement rate. In what could sometimes turn into a toxic online space, I breathed much easier knowing that Daniela was at the wheel as the Facebook group moderator and facilitator.

Daniela also created The Icarus Project’s local chapter training materials and coordinated the local chapter training tour in March 2015 in multiple cities, including Oakland, where our chapter resides. This was the first time since I had been with the organization that anyone from National took the time to come and meet with us, let alone deliver a stellar workshop.

I worked closely with Daniela to coordinate the workshops for our chapter. Daniela has phenomenal workshop facilitation skills: She holds space without judgement, brings her extensive knowledge, communicates clearly, leads with empathy, and delivers content in an engaging and accessible format. I still talk to people about Daniela’s workshop and the power it held for me. Daniela also coordinated with local chapter leaders to acquire member-created art and writing to include in the mad maps publications, as well as helped to edit the first publication.

Daniela advocated for and updated critical sections of The Icarus Project’s website, such as the local chapters’ contact page. As a local organizer, this update was critical, as the previous inconsistencies in contact and meeting information created constant confusion for new members.

Daniela’s work as Icarus’ National Organizer improved the organization immeasurably. Very few people could fill a role with this many disparate skill sets needed. Daniela managed social media engagement, spearheaded decolonization efforts, organized local chapter efforts, planned and executed a workshop tour, edited written materials, and opened up consistent communication channels between local chapters and national Icarus (which was sorely needed).

If you have the opportunity to work with Daniela, I am confident that she will exceed your expectations and bring your organization to a new level.
— Amanda Gelender, Social Impact Project Manager at GitHub and former The Icarus Project organizer

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